The Good Soldier

where the two couples suited to one another

where the dowells and the ashburnhams suited for each other

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The Good Soldier relates the complex social and sexual relationships between two couples, one English, one American; at its core we learn that no one is who or what we believe them to be, and that the term 'good' is a loosely used adjective that more often than not is completely incorrect.

Our two couples believe themselves to be on such intimate terms that they know everything about one another, but they don't. In actuality, the way the story unfolds makes us aware that no matter the intimacy or time spent, to truly know someone is at best impossible. To really have the ability to know someone is a gift.

The fact that someone is 'well-born,' is simply a matter of circumstance; manners on the other hand are not innate, they're learned. In answer to your question, these two couples ARE suited to one another, but not because they're the perfect match in friendship or the things they enjoys, but because of their perceptions of each other.

Adultery is a major theme in the novel, and each of the main characters is adulterous in one way or another. The author introduces adultery as the main reason for the deterioration of the family; I myself wouldn't argue that fact, but it's the different ways that the author portrays adultery that makes one shake their head.

If we look at the characters, we meet two men; both of them have mistresses, but both circumstances are presented in different ways. Bayham simply indulges in sex outside of marriage; it isn't about love, it's about gratification. It doesn't threaten his marriage because there is no emotional attachment, but for Ashburnham the act has a totally different meaning.

Ashburnham has an affair, keeps a mistress, and loses himself to the emotional bonds he's found with another woman. It's not physical but rather all consuming. His affair ends his marriage and becomes the eventual reason for his suicide. The behavior of one of these men is seen as acceptable; the other? Well, he's committed the 'larger' sin, but what the author is looking for here is your answer to that question. Was one form of adultery worse than the other?

As couples, they mirror each other. The Dowells have a loveless marriage in which the husband is cuckholded by his wife. The Ashburnham's have the exact opposite as it's the husband. Their relationships as couples merely exist and aren't real. Dowell is consistently made a fool of; he eventually learns to ignore it, and in turn becomes the modern husband of the sexual revolution. Happy? No? Accepting? Well, maybe on the exterior.

Leonora (Mrs. Ashburnham) find herself in direct line with Mr. Dowell, but her personality, upbringing, and self worth are portrayed in a different way. She doesn't seem to care what her husband does unless it's in conflict with what's good for the family. If his mistress and affair don't effect her day to day life, and the order of family affairs she's willing to turn a blind eye. This outlook is cultural.

In the end, I've gone on for far too long here; were they suitable? Yes, probably as suitable as any friendship that relies on functions rather than emotions to exist in a social format. Are they proof that even the closest of couples can be blind to each other's private matters? Yes, it happens every day. They were friends far more than confidants, and in the end did what so many 'real' couples do when tragedy hits; they admitted they 'never saw it coming.' It happens every day.


The Good Soldier